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Brain on Fire
Cover of Brain on Fire
Brain on Fire
My Month of Madness
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One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had...
One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had...
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  • One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four-year-old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.

    Susannah's astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of "demonic possessions" throughout history.

    With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer.

About the Author-

  • SUSANNAH CAHALAN is a news reporter at the New York Post whose award-winning work has also been featured in The New York Times. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 24, 2012
    In 2009, Cahalan was in a serious relationship and her career as a reporter at the New York Post was taking off. But suddenly, as she tells it in this engaging memoir, she began suffering from a bizarre amalgam of debilitating symptoms including memory loss, paranoia, and severe psychosis that left her in a catatonic state that moved her close to death. Physicians remained baffled until one extraordinary doctor determined that Cahalan was “in the grip of some kind of autoimmune disease.” Released from the hospital after 28 days, she had no memory of her stay there. DVDs recorded in the hospital were the only link she had to her startling condition. “Without this electronic evidence, I could never have imagined myself capable of such madness and misery,” she writes. Focusing her journalistic toolbox on her story, Cahalan untangles the medical mystery surrounding her condition. She is dogged by one question: “How many other people throughout history suffered from my disease and others like it but went untreated? The question is made more pressing by the knowledge that even though the disease was discovered in 2007, some doctors I spoke to believe that it’s been around at least as long as humanity has.” A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery.

  • Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center

    "Engrossing. . . . Unquestionably, an important book on both a human and a medical level. Cahalan's elegantly-written memoir of her dramatic descent into madness opens up discussion of the cutting-edge neuroscience behind a disease that may affect thousands of people around the world, and it offers powerful insight into the subjective workings of our minds."

  • David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Engineering, University of Southern California

    Brain on Fire reads like a scientific thriller, but with a profound and moving philosophy at its heart."

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